The 21st century has seen a number of celebrations marking important anniversaries and milestones since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517. There are many reasons for God’s people to celebrate such events, especially the church’s rediscovery of the gospel of God’s amazing grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Some, however, have lamented the Reformation, noting that it resulted in so many denominations, federations, associations, and independent churches that one might wonder whether Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17 could ever be realized.
While all true Christians enjoy unity across denominational lines, we are convinced that, five hundred years after the Reformation, this Trinity Psalter Hymnal is tangible evidence that our Lord’s desire for unity also comes to pass in distinctly visible ways. We regard the publication of this volume as an appropriate tribute to the Reformation.
We hope that, by jointly producing a hymnal, we will assist Reformed churches in fulfilling the ancient dictum “Qui bene cantat bis orat” (the one who sings well prays twice): both in the words and by the music. The musical introduction to this volume explains these concepts more fully.
The Trinity Psalter Hymnal is a combined effort of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA). We believe that this product of two biblically faithful and confessional churches, one Presbyterian and the other Continental Reformed, has not only ecumenical but historical significance.
The Trinity Psalter Hymnal reflects our churches’ commitment to sing the Psalms. We have included at least one rendition of each of the 150 psalms. In all but Psalm 119, the first selection of each psalm is the full psalm. This we have designated as the “A” selection (e.g., Psalm 1A). For all full selections, we have included the biblical verse numbers with the words. For those psalms that have multiple selections, the additional selections (designated “B,” “C,” etc.) might also be the full psalm, or a portion of the psalm (a partial), or a paraphrase. The partials and paraphrases are described as such at the end of the selection. For each partial, the biblical verses it covers are indicated above the psalm number.
Following the psalm section are the hymns. In this section, we have sought to include the best hymnody from our two traditions, both recovering some ancient ones and introducing some new ones. The hymns are categorized under three main headings: Worship, Faith and Life, and Service Music.
The Trinity Psalter Hymnal also includes the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort) and the Westminster Standards (the Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism). To our knowledge, this is the first songbook to include all these Reformed confessions.
Our prayer is that this collection of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs will give glory and honor to our great, triune God, will be used by God’s people to offer worshipful praise to him, and will be useful for “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).
A Musical Introduction to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal
What is singing, and why would the Lord command its use in Christian worship and in our interaction with him and with one another? To sing is to give voice to the emotions. Of the more than six hundred passages in Scripture that address singing and music, most connect them to human emotions. Because singing contains words, and words propose ideas, the apostle Paul is quick to remind us that singing is an activity of both the spirit and the mind. Singing contains the same God-given components of sound that we use when we speak: rhythm, pitch, timbre, and volume.
Preparing Our Hearts, Minds, Voices, and Fingers for Worship
A large portion of the congregational participation in the worship service is the sung praise offered by God’s people. Each of us (pastor, musician, congregational singer) has a specific role to play in this, both in preparation for the service and during the service.